Depending upon where you live, your winter weather may be cold this year. (Here in the Midwest, we’ve had an unusual winter – although it’s been colder in January.) If you have been outside enjoying the winter weather, you need to take care to prevent your feet from getting frostbite. By following these tips, you can ensure your feet, as well as the rest of your body, stays healthy.
When your feet become exposed to below-freezing temperatures for too long, the blood vessels in your skin constrict. The blood will flow away from your feet to preserve your body’s core temperature. Ice crystals can form in the blood and fluids inside your skin and tissues. Eventually, the lack of blood causes your tissues to freeze and your skin cells in the affected areas to die.
Besides the toes and feet, the nose, cheeks, ears and fingers are commonly affected areas, too. Even if you live in cold weather climates all the time, everyone is susceptible to frostbite.
Frostbite Warning Signs
There are four degrees of frostbite:
First degree: This is called frostnip. This only affects the skin’s surface. You’ll experience itching and pain. Your skin may turn red, yellow and/or white. Numbness and tingling occurs.
Second degree: Your skin may freeze and harden. However, your deep tissues are not affected. About one or two days after your skin freezes, you will develop blisters in the affected area. These blisters may turn hard and black.
Third and fourth degree: Deep frostbite occurs when freezing continues further. Your muscles, tendons, blood vessels and nerves will freeze. Your skin will feel hard and wax-like. You will develop purple blisters which turn black. You will have a loss of feeling in the affected area. Extreme frostbite can result in amputation of toes if the area becomes infected with gangrene.
- Get indoors to a warm place as soon as possible.
- Do not walk on frostbitten feet or toes unless absolutely necessary.
- Unless you can keep your feet warm continuously, do not warm the skin. Warming and re-exposing the skin to the cold can cause more damage.
- If you’re in a warm place, carefully remove your shoes and socks, especially if they’re wet.
- Immerse your feet in lukewarm – not hot – water (100° to 105° Fahrenheit). Hot water can burn your skin if your feet are numb since you won’t be able to tell how hot the water is.
- If you can’t warm your feet up with water or after you’ve used water, loosely wrap dry, sterile bandages between your toes, then wrap your feet in blankets.
- Handle the area with care. Do not rub or massage the affected skin. This can damage the tissue further.
- Do not break any blisters.
- Do not use a heating pad, heat lamp, stove, radiator or fireplace to warm the affected area. Since your feet are numb, you may not realize if you’re being burned.
- As the feeling in your feet returns, slowly wiggle your toes.
- If your skin tingles and burns while it warms, your circulation is returning.
- Your skin may turn red, but it should not swell or blister.
Go to the emergency room immediately if:
- Your skin is white, purplish or black and/or hard.
- You continue to have pain after rewarming.
- Your feet remain numb.
- Your feet swell or blister.
While most people recover completely from frostbite, any affected areas may be more susceptible to both heat and cold in the future.
Treatment of Other Foot Problems
While custom orthotics, like ezWalker® Performance Insoles, can’t prevent or treat frostbite, they can reduce your risk of foot pain caused by other foot conditions, like corns, bunions or arch pain. ezWalker® insoles are ultra thin and ¾ length in size, so they easily fit into any footwear, including athletic or casual shoes or winter boots. The ezWalker® insole is customized to each of your feet – providing you with the exact support your feet need. With proactive use of performance insoles, every step you take will be biomechanically correct. Order your ezWalker® Performance Insoles today!
Because … when your feet feel good, you feel good.
Note: If you follow these guidelines and your pain persists, you may have a more serious condition. See your physician for a more complete diagnosis and treatment.